Right Wing Nut House

9/13/2006

“THE PATH TO 9/11″ SCRUTINZED UNFAIRLY

Filed under: Media, Politics — Rick Moran @ 6:23 am

It may be that one day, after the partisan dust has settled and 9/11 itself has faded in its emotional impact if not significance, that ABC’s docudrama The Path to 9/11 will be seen exactly as it should be; a sincere attempt to tell the story of how the tragedy came about and how our national leaders failed in the end to stop it.

The hatchet job done this past fortnight by the left in attacking the project as nothing more than a partisan witch hunt aimed at smearing President Clinton has been remarkable for the way that several different political interests fused to give rise to the major critiques used by Democrats to tar the film unfairly. These include:

* The vanity and sheer ass covering of Clinton aides and Clinton himself in not wanting to be portrayed in any kind of negative light.

* The potential candidacy of Hillary for President for which it is vitally important that the two terms her husband served in that office be seen as years of competent administration and successful protection against terrorists.

* Democratic electoral prospects in the 2006 mid terms which could be affected if the public sees the left as weak on terror.

* The threatening prospect that The Narrative the left has used to undermine the Bush Administration for the last 5 years was being challenged by the facts. A recent poll showing that more than 50% of Americans now blame Bush for 9/11, up from 34% in 2002 shows just how successful The Narrative has been at spinning history.

For all these reasons and more the left has thrown down the gauntlet from here on out regarding the showing of history in any form - documentary, docudrama, or even fictionalized accounts based on real events - and that not only will future projects involving Bush or Republicans be scrutinized with a magnifying glass but, more ominously, the political affiliations and even religious beliefs of the various producers, writers, and directors will come under the microscope as well.

The current avenue of attack by the left on the project is the alleged “religious right” cabal that directed and wrote the film. This theme was first presented at HuffPo by Max Blumenthal who wrote a laughably inaccurate and shockingly dishonest piece about 1) “a secretive evangelical religious right group” behind the film; and 2) the conservative leanings of writer/producer Cy Nowrasteh.

Blumenthal’s piece appeared in a slightly altered form in The Nation but still with its deliberate falsehoods and exaggerations intact. (Read my takedown of Blumenthal for an idea of just how inaccurate and dishonest his analysis is.)

The first question one may have is what is so “secretive” about the group mentioned by Blumenthal, the Youth With a Mission (YWAM), a world class, mainstream protestant missionary group? Blumenthal peppers his critique with idiotic scare words like “secretive” and “mysterious” in a juvenile attempt to make the perfectly legitimate associations of the film’s director look ominous.

The Guardian picks up on this ridiculous theme and goes Blumenthal one better; they redefine “extremist” Christian views:

The film’s director, David Cunningham, is active in Youth With a Mission (Ywam), a fundamentalist evangelical organisation founded by his father, Loren Cunningham. According to its publications, the group believes in demonic possession, spiritual healing and conservative sexual morality.

Last month David Cunningham addressed a conference in England organised by the group at its UK headquarters in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, on the making of the film. His talk was entitled Christ-like Witness in the Film Industry.

The last time I looked, “demonic possession, spiritual healing and conservative sexual morality” were not beliefs limited to wild-eyed right wing Christians. Perhaps the Guardian should look first at the Catholic church (ever hear of Lourdes?) who believe in the very same things as well as most protestant denominations.

Not content with attacking mainstream religious people by comparing their beliefs to radical Christian fundamentalists, both Blumenthal and the Guardian question screenwriter Nowrasteh’s political beliefs.

Blumenthal in fact, goes to great pains to misquote Nowrasteh in an interview he did with Frontpage. Compare what Blumenthal quoted with what Nowrasteh actually said. Blumenthal first:

With the LFF now under Horowitz’s control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh’s “Untitled” project, which finally was revealed in late summer as “The Path to 9/11.” Horowitz’s PR blitz began with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine. In the interview, Nowrasteh foreshadowed the film’s assault on Clinton’s record on fighting terror. “The 9/11 report details the Clinton’s administration’s response—or lack of response—to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests,” Nowrasteh told FrontPageMag’s Jamie Glazov. “There simply was no response. Nothing.”

Here’s what Nowrasteh actually said:

The 9/11 report details the Clinton’s administration’s response—or lack of response—to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests. The worst example is the response to the October, 2000 attack on the U.S.S. COLE in Yemen where 17 American sailors were killed. There simply was no response. Nothing.

Blumenthal’s failure to note that Nowrasteh was talking about Clinton inaction regarding terrorism only as it related to the USS Cole bombing while making it appear that the screenwriter was condemning Clinton for having “no response” to terrorism in general is incredibly dishonest. How a supposedly mainstream publication like The Nation allowed this calumny onto its pages is a mystery. Perhaps the fact checker was off that day.

Surprisingly, the New York Times injects a little sanity into this debate about right wing connections to the film. This piece by Edward Wyatt, while rightly questioning some of the film’s accuracy, points out the silliness of this line of attack by the left:

The project would appear to have more benign roots however. Stephen McPherson, the president of ABC Entertainment, and Quinn Taylor, the senior vice president for motion pictures for television and miniseries at ABC, first conceived the idea of a mini-series based on the independent Sept. 11 commission’s best-selling report in 2004. Mr. Taylor contacted Mr. Platt, who had a production deal with Touchstone, the Disney unit that produces series and movies for ABC and other networks. In addition to films like “Legally Blonde,” Mr. Platt, formerly chairman of Sony’s TriStar Pictures, had produced television projects, including a 2005 version of “Once Upon a Mattress,” starring Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman, for ABC.

After several attempts to find a director, Mr. Taylor settled on Mr. Cunningham, who had directed “Little House on the Prairie” for ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney.” And Mr. Platt and Mr. Taylor decided on Mr. Nowrasteh as the screenwriter after reading his script for “The Day Reagan Was Shot,” a 2001 television movie that was shown on the Showtime cable network.

“I thought that was an effective dramatization of an historic event,” Mr. Platt said, “and it seemed Cyrus had the ability to deal with lots of research and sources.”

Nowrasteh was skewered by conservatives for his portrayal of Reagan Administration figures in the The Day Reagan Was Shot. I guess he forgot for a while that he was supposed to be a right wing nut.

The screenwriter, an Iranian immigrant, has said on more than one occasion that he is more libertarian than conservative. Judging by his work on both the Reagan and 9/11 projects, one would have to conclude that it is probable Mr. Nowrasteh leaves his ideology at the door when writing and concentrates more on being “dramatic.”

And this brings us to the real villain in all of this; ABC and their over-hyping this project as more of a documentary than a drama. Some of this controversy could have been avoided if the network hadn’t left themselves wide open to criticism for inventing scenes out of whole cloth and putting words in people’s mouths they didn’t say. Their promotion of the film as “based on the 9/11 Commission Report” was also inaccurate. When I first saw the advertising for the program, I actually thought it would be a dramatization of what was in the Commission’s report. What it turned out to be was a mish mash of stuff pulled directly from the report (”Everything is blinking red!”), composite scenes that give the gist of what policy makers were thinking, and invented drama used to illustrate certain themes and to suggest how characters may have acted in real life.

This is hardly documentary film making. And ABC should have known better when promoting it.

That being said, the dishonesty and hysterical exaggeration about the inaccuracies in the film by the left only seemed to draw more attention to it. The film won the ratings race on Monday night (after finishing a distant second to football on Sunday evening). And as Tom Kean pointed out today in the New York Times, many times more people watched the film than ever read the Commission’s report.

The controversy over the film has been unnecessary, overblown, and, in the end, self-defeating for the left. It probably won’t change anyone’s mind about who was to blame for 9/11. History has made that judgment already. And it isn’t Bush, or Clinton, or any other American president but rather Osama Bin Laden and his ideology of death and terror.

14 Comments

  1. Leaving politics to the side for a moment, I thought the film was very well crafted. There were good performances. The direction and shooting style gave you a feeling of being there.

    Comment by GW — 9/13/2006 @ 11:39 am

  2. It’s been interesting to see the hysteria and rage coming from the defenders of the Clinton presidency. They can be concerned that the film, which I watched in it’s entirety, will be taken as a documentary of actual events rather than a dramatization of events, and ABC, if indeed it was their intent, was wrong to leave that impression.

    But I never got the impression that it was a “dead on balls accurate” (it’s an industry term) documentary prior to the film’s airing, and I’m not sure why anyone would. What I did expect to see - and which I did see - were events and missed opportunities and poor decision making portrayed accurately. The “wall of separation,” which was undeniably present, was dramatized. The law and order approach to terrorism, which was undeniably present, was dramatized. And the well-documented missed opportunities to go on the offensive, which were undeniably present, were also dramatized.

    Kind of what I expected.

    Comment by Giacomo — 9/13/2006 @ 3:13 pm

  3. As opposed to hysteria and rage coming from those defending the Bush administration?

    Funny to see the two sides of the equation so energetically damning each other in hopes of making their boy look like he’s as pure as the driven snow.

    Al Qaeda grew during the Bush I and Clinton years, and 9-11 happened on Junior’s vacation-filled watch.

    There are no innocents here.

    Comment by Stanis Flouride — 9/13/2006 @ 4:00 pm

  4. Blumenthal writes “religious right group” and Moran says “cabal.” Blumenthal quotes Nowrasteh word for word and Moran calls it calumny. No scare words there. Blumenthal titles his piece “right-wing network” and Moran writes “vast right-wing conspiracy” in his previous article about The Path to 9/11 controversy.

    Blumthal puts together the pieces of a good story about how right-wingers team up to produce a “docu-drama” that has a scene where the Afghan Northern Alliance and a few CIA guys have bin Laden surrounded and the Clinton White House nixes the attack. Then the Alliance leader asks the CIA guy, “Are there any men in Washington? Or are they all cowards?” The whole scene is indisputably fictitious. Of course the implication is Democrats are weak on defense. Liberals are supposed to sit still and take it, right?

    Then the evening culminates with Bush making a prime time 9/11 address to the nation where he tells us that, although there is no connection between 9/11 and Iraq–Iraq is where the central fight against the people that perpetuated 9/11. And, anybody who says we should leave Iraq is weak on terrorism. Okay

    His best line, though, is: “The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.” Every American should raise an eyebrow as how did the safety of America get reduced to what happens in the streets of Baghdad?

    Comment by Turnabout — 9/13/2006 @ 5:18 pm

  5. You are being completely disingenuous and you know it.

    Blumenthal’s intent was to posit a conspiracy that right wingers made P29/11 to smear Clinton.

    Wyatt’s article in the Times makes total hash of that nonsense.

    As for scare words, when Blumenthal uses idiotic adjectives like “mysterious” to describe a script title used 10,000 times in TV history, he is being deliberately provocative.

    And no, he did NOT use Nowrasteh’s quote “word for word” - something I proved conclusively if you could read. Blumenthal wanted to leave the impression that Nowrasteh said that the Administration did nothing about terrorism when it is absolutely clear from the interview that Nowrasteh was talking ONLY about the Cole bombing - a fact that you don’t even bother to address.

    It IS calumnious for Blumenthal to try and tar mainstream religious groups like YWAM with being a radical right wing organization. It is a false impression that if he had taken the time to read about the group and read what others say about it, he would have seen how patently ridiculous his charges were.

    In short, Blumenthal’s piece was a dishonest attack using strawmen, misquotes, scare mongering, and deliberate falsehoods.

    As for that scene, I have made it clear I found it ridiculously inaccurate - as were several other scenes I’ve pointed out on other posts. As soon as you acknowledge the truth of other scenes involving Clinton, I’ll give you leave to criticize. Until then, keep your mouth shut.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 9/13/2006 @ 5:31 pm

  6. All right I give you the fact that he droped the sentence about the Cole, but that’s not misquoting. It’s more like selective quoting and certainly not calumny = (a false and malicious statement designed to injure the reputation of someone).

    Your upset with the style Blumenthal used to tell his story, but your not disputing the basic facts that the evangelical religious group, David Horowitz and other conservative types networked together to make this production, Designed to air on the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which coincided with the political Bush address in an election year where Republicans are on the ropes politically. Additionally the only thing they have going for themselves is ’strong on terror.’ If you don’t think that adds up to a political ploy, your being disingenuous.

    Comment by Turnabout — 9/13/2006 @ 6:04 pm

  7. “I thought that was an effective dramatization of an historic event,” Mr. Platt said, “and it seemed Cyrus had the ability to deal with lots of research and sources.”

    And based upon what we have learned about the script, Platt could not have been more wrong.

    Remember: one man’s “mainstream religious group” is another man’s delusional freak show.

    Comment by tbogg — 9/13/2006 @ 10:44 pm

  8. You’re putting forth the notion to your readers that it was the left that had a problem with this movie, but that’s only part of the story.

    Some of the sharpest criticism came from conservative Republicans. The reason being, at the end of the day, the film just made some stuff up, important stuff.

    Maybe when you’re dealing with anything else, you can get away with being a “docudrama” but when you’re dealing with 9-11, you better have your facts straight, and that standard should exist outside of political considerations or anything else for that matter.

    So..

    “And this brings us to the real villain in all of this; ABC and their over-hyping this project as more of a documentary than a drama. Some of this controversy could have been avoided if the network hadn’t left themselves wide open to criticism for inventing scenes out of whole cloth and putting words in people’s mouths they didn’t say. Their promotion of the film as “based on the 9/11 Commission Report” was also inaccurate. When I first saw the advertising for the program, I actually thought it would be a dramatization of what was in the Commission’s report. What it turned out to be was a mish mash of stuff pulled directly from the report (“Everything is blinking red!”), composite scenes that give the gist of what policy makers were thinking, and invented drama used to illustrate certain themes and to suggest how characters may have acted in real life.”

    We can agree here.

    Comment by matt — 9/14/2006 @ 1:42 am

  9. This movie did no more nor less dramatizing and “putting words in people’s mouths” than another historical and objectively accurate movie Tora!Tora!Tora!

    Where was the outcry over dramatizing when in was shown for the 4 billionth time last Friday?

    Comment by Stephanie — 9/14/2006 @ 2:23 am

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